The Journey of Ibn Fattouma

The Journey of Ibn Fattouma

infobox Book |
name = The Journey of Ibn Fattouma
title_orig =
translator = Denys Johnson-Davies

author = Naguib Mahfouz
cover_artist =
country = Egypt
language = Arabic
series =
genre = Novel
publisher = Doubleday
release_date = 1983 (translation 1992)
media_type = Print (Hardback)
pages =
isbn = ISBN 0-385-42323-3 (hardback edition)
preceded_by =
followed_by =

The Journey of Ibn Fattouma is a novel written and published by Nobel Prize-winning author Naguib Mahfouz in 1983. It was translated from Arabic into English in 1992 by Denys Johnson-Davies and published by Doubleday. []

Plot summary

Ibn Fattouma, also known by his birth name Qindil Muhammad al-Innabi, is a Muslim man disillusioned by the corruption in his home city. When he asks one of his teachers why a land whose people obeys the tenets of Islam suffers so, Ibn Fattouma is told the answer he seeks lies far away from the city. Since travel broadens one's horizons, the teacher encourages Ibn Fattouma to seek the land of "Gebel", where such problems have been solved. The teacher tried to travel there himself, but civil war in neighboring lands and the demands of family ultimately prevented him from completing the journey. Also, no documents exist about Gebel and no one is known to have traveled there and come back.

Ibn Fattouma says farewell to his mother and proceeds with a caravan out of his home city to the land of "Mashriq". In this sexually liberated society (by Ibn Fattouma's standards), the women hold power over their families. Nevertheless, Ibn Fattouma settles in Mashriq with a woman named Arousa and has five children. Because of Ibn Fattouma's insistence upon teaching his eldest son Islam, he is exiled from Mashriq and prohibited from seeing Arousa or their children again. Ibn Fattouma then travels to the land of Haira. War with the neighboring land of Halba separates Ibn Fattouma from them, but at the next stop on his journey, he is reunited with Arousa. The chamberlain of the god-king of "Haira" wants Arousa as his wife and arranges for Ibn Fattouma to be jailed. Twenty years pass in Haira before the god-king is overthrown, and the chamberlain (who was also jailed) tells Ibn Fattouma to look in the neighboring land of Halba for his wife and son.

In "Halba", the freedom of the individual is the greatest good. All religions peacefully coexist and openly encourage freedom of inquiry. The Halbans are also aggressive promoters of their philosophy of life in other nations; preparations are underway as Ibn Fattouma arrives for a war with neighboring Aman. Ibn Fattouma is reunited with Arousa, who thought him lost and had since married a Buddhist. There Ibn Fattouma meets and marries Samia, a pediatrician in Halba's hospital. With his wife's reluctant approval, Ibn Fattouma decides to continue his journey before war makes such travel impossible.

In the land of "Aman", justice is held as the greatest good, and every citizen is encouraged to spy on every other to maintain order. He leaves just as Aman and Halba prepare to fight. His next stop, the land of "Ghuroub", finds Ibn Fattouma questioned to the depths of his being. Does he earnestly desire to go to Gebel, and why? Ibn Fattouma states as he has many times before that he seeks to learn Gebel's secret of perfection in life and share it with the people of his homeland. He and the other seekers of Gebel are driven from Ghuroub, and after months of travel, they sight Gebel itself from a mountain peak. As Ibn Fattouma descends to continue his journey, the story ends without the reader learning whether he finds the perfection he seeks.


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